BRONX, NY, Fri Mar 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A study carried out by the Obstetrics and Gynecology Dept. of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital has found that women who use hormonal contraceptives have significantly lower levels of essential vitamins and antioxidants compared to women who do not use the drugs.

“We compared the influences of three contraceptive methods (oral contraceptives, vaginal ring, and transdermal patch) on serum levels of coenzyme Q(10), alpha-tocopherol, gammatocopherol and total antioxidant capacity in premenopausal women,” said head researcher Prabhudas R. Palan.

CoQ10 is regarded as one of the most important antioxidants, while α-Tocopherol is generally considered the most potent antioxidant in the active tocopherols, both of which are lipid-soluble free radical scavengers located in cell membranes capable of neutralizing oxygen free radicals, the report states.

The study involved seventy non-smoking, healthy premenopausal women from the same inner-city socioeconomic background. Of these 70 subjects, forty women who did not use hormonal contraceptives constituted the control group.

Among the 30 contraceptive users, 15 took the oral pill (Triphasic OC) for a minimum period of 6 months; 5 inserted the vaginal ring (NuvaRing) from day 1–21 for a total period of 6 cycles; and 10 used the transdermal patch (Ortho Evra) for 3 consecutive weeks each month for a minimum of 6 cycles.

The researchers noted that relatively little research has been focused on the effect of hormonal contraceptives on lipid-soluble antioxidant levels, but observed that previous research has shown that an imbalance between the production of oxygen free radicals and serum levels of antioxidants can lead to cell oxidative stress and damage and consequent apoptosis (cell death).

“Oxidative stress has been suggested to be involved in the etiology (causation) of many chronic disease processes including cardiovascular disease, cancer, cataracts, and aging,” the report stated.

The researchers also pointed out that natural ovarian hormones, primarily estrogens, possess antioxidant properties and have been postulated to protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The researchers concluded that hormonal contraceptive users have significantly depleted levels of essential vitamins and antioxidants.

“This is the first report examining the effects of exogenous (artificial) ovarian hormones on serum levels of CoQ10 and vitamin E in healthy premenopausal women,” the researchers reported.

“Results demonstrate significantly lower serum levels of CoQ10, α-tocopherol, and TAOC (total antioxidant capacity) in hormonal contraception users compared to nonusers.

“Moreover, contraceptive patch users had the lowest levels of CoQ10 and TAOC compared with normal subjects.

“Data suggest that alterations in CoQ10 and α-tocopherol by hormonal contraception and the potential effect(s) of exogenous ovarian hormones on oxidative stress should be taken into consideration in future antioxidant research,” the report concluded.

The full text of the study, titled “Effects of Oral, Vaginal, and Transdermal Hormonal Contraception on Serum Levels of Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin E, and Total Antioxidant Activity” is available here.